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BC's backbone back on track

by Bob Snow /
There is no doubt that 21-year-old Boston College junior goaltender John Muse is battle tested.

With the scars to prove it.

"What I was told was over time playing goalie for so long your bones wear on each other," said Muse about the successful surgery last April to repair a torn labrum in his hip. "Playing so early your bones don't shape as properly. Because of the butterfly goaltending, you go down every shot. I started about (age) 5 or 6."

When Muse landed on the Boston College campus in the fall of 2007, he went down for a lot of shots -- beginning Day 1.

How many?

The Cape Cod native out of the Noble & Greenough School in Dedham, Mass., played every minute of his team's 44 games in 2007-08, and started all 37 games last season.

Muse set a school record with 1,171 saves that first season. The stops in that 44th and final game earned the Eagles a third national championship in a 4-1 win against Notre Dame.

He entered 2009-10 with a 43-25-13 record, a 2.44 goals-against average and .913 save percentage.

More impressive, Muse played the first two games of BC's new season to run his ironman streak to 83 consecutive games before finally sitting Oct. 30 against Merrimack.

"We thought for sure during the summer we never envisioned him coming back this quickly," said Eagles coach Jerry York after BC played New Hampshire to a 4-4 tie Nov. 6.  "Eight weeks on crutches and he made a remarkable recovery. All of us were surprised he came back on the ice right at the start of training camp."

"I expected the streak to end," said the undrafted Muse. "I'm not going to play every game this year. The coaches have been pretty cautious with me, which is good because I don't want to be injured anymore. It had to end sometime.

"This year is a work in progress. Didn't play all summer, took about five months off from skating. So now I'm getting back into everything. Feeling better every game. I knew I'd get back to it. The big thing is getting out there; practice has helped a lot. A lot of it is muscle memory; you're used to doing things."

What Muse is most used to is winning hockey games.

In the UNH game, he stopped two point-blank shots with a minute remaining in regulation, and then three in the waning seconds of overtime to preserve the tie after the Wildcats came back from down 4-1 with three unanswered goals in regulation.

"I thought Johnny Muse played an outstanding OT game," said York. "Made some remarkable saves for us. (But) I think our locker room thinks maybe we let one slip away from us tonight. The only one he'd want back is the fourth; maybe lost control of the rebound."

"That's the best game he's played in a while," said senior captain Matt Price, who has seen most of Muse's career saves. "He competed hard and was the backbone. We need to keep pushing him."

Twenty-four hours later, there was no letdown. Muse was in control of the big-picture rebound, leading his teammates to a 5-1 win against Northeastern.

There will, however, be no more ironman roles for Muse.

"We've got better depth in goal than we've had," said York. "We'll need a couple goalies as we move down the stretch. Right now he's (No. 1), but we need to get more reps from Parker Milner. We'll play other goaltenders."

"Our goal is always to win a national championship," said Muse about this season.

And with good reason.

BC has played in six championship games since 1998, winning the title in 2001 against North Dakota, led by Brian Gionta and Scott Clemmensen, and in 2008, led by Nathan Gerbe.

Three of the losses were by one goal (two in overtime), and an empty-netter in 2007 made it a 3-1 final.

"We have a good group and a lot of young kids. It will take them a little time to adjust, just like my freshman class and last year's," said Muse. "Once we get on track, we'll be real good."

"Good" is the operative word in Eagle-speak.

"There are some pretty good teams out there," said York. "It's a question of who can take that 'pretty' out and make it just 'good.'"

Last weekend, Muse continued his contribution to that revision.

Saturday night, he and the Eagles took down Vermont, 7-1; the next day, he lost a 3-2 nail-biter to the Catamounts.

"Once I start getting wins," said Muse before last weekend, "I'll be back."

John Muse is back.

Peaks and valleys -- Quinnipiac, Bemidji and Miami have eight wins each; Niagara, Dartmouth and Brown remain winless. ... Michigan State is No. 1 in the CCHA; Michigan is No. 10. ... Miami and Boston University played for the national title in April. Miami is 8-1-1 and currently ranked No. 1; BU is 2-5-0 and No. 17. ... Quinnipiac is 4-0 in ECACHL play; Clarkson is 0-4.

Less thunder at Hockey East games -- The recent trend of thunder sticks at Hockey East games has declined on the popularity chart, a plus for those more tuned into wanting decibel levels to remain from traditional sources like clapping and cheering. League commissioner Joe Bertagna told the Boston Globe: "Thunder sticks can be annoying for those people who aren't in the student crowd. But we have a casual policy that is if both teams agree -- and you have to ask them ahead of time -- then they're fine. But the other team would have to agree. A lot of time they are sponsor related."

Score one for the paying customers.

On Campus clips -- sends condolences to the family of former UMass-Lowell forward Ryan Golden, who was killed in a car crash last Saturday morning in his hometown of Reading, Mass. Golden, a seventh-round draft choice of the Boston Bruins in 1993, played at UMass-Lowell from 1993-97, and was a member of the last two River Hawks teams to reach the NCAA Tournament -- in 1994 and 1996. ... The Michigan State Spartans own the nation's longest undefeated streak (6-0-1) after sweeping Michigan, 3-2 and 2-0, in a home-and-home set that also marked their first sweep of Michigan on consecutive nights since Feb. 20-21, 1998. Six weeks later Michigan would end that season with an NCAA-record ninth championship, led by goalie Marty Turco. ... Saturday's shootout between Ferris State and Miami went a league-record 11 rounds (only the CCHA has shootouts to determine regular-season games after overtime). Miami's Connor Knapp and Ferris' Pat Nagle combined for 17 straight stops before Chad Billins scored for Ferris, and Nagle made the final save. ... Key games this weekend include Massachusetts at Yale, Princeton at Cornell, BU at New Hampshire, North Dakota at Denver, and Michigan State at Notre Dame.

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